Thursday, January 31, 2013

demo day

We got a little storm that brought us four inches to play in last Saturday.  Alta was not crowded in the least, the snow not being enough to convince most people to come out in the flat light.  The snow was soft, however, with temperatures in the low 30s and it was certainly pleasant enough to ski on. 

H has been researching skis ad nauseam, exhaustively reading gear guides and talking to ski shop employees.  He narrowed the contenders down to three skis to demo out of the Motherlode Powder House in the Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge at Wildcat Base, all fairly similar skis in different widths from a couple of different manufacturers.  Since the ski shop is at the front side of Alta, H decided he’d ski Collins and Sugarloaf until noon so he could change out skis as necessary; I don’t prefer the front side unless there’s tons of snow so the plan was to meet at Alf’s for lunch.

I headed straight for the Supreme chair and started making laps, starting at the East Castle side and working my way back across trail by trail, trying the bumps when I could (the moguls on Challenger were ridiculously big), going into Supreme Bowl and taking the traverse (in much better shape than the last time) across the top of the Bowl into Catherine’s a couple of times.  H found me at the top of the lift a little before noon so we were able to take a run together before lunch.

He had decided almost immediately that he didn’t like the first pair he tried – trouble initiating turns.  He was on that second pair when we met up and thought they were fantastic, but was heading back to the shop after lunch to swap them out for the slightly wider version.  When he found me again, still riding the Supreme chair, he was enjoying the wider skis quite a lot and we hiked into Catherine’s to see if we could find some deeper snow for him to try.  Being 10 mm. wider, this third pair were slightly more difficult to get on edge than the second ones, but they’d float well in powder – if we would ever get some.

We stayed out until 3 p.m., taking his demo skis through bumps and trees and gullies and groomers, trying to see what they could do.  After he returned them and then thought about it some more, H decided that he wanted that third pair – if he really wants to make tight turns, he can always ski on his beloved old Volkl AC-4s.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

dining out

Occasionally we try something other than the Porcupine when going out for a date night, just so not to get in a rut.  There are tons of good restaurants in greater Salt Lake City but since we live south of downtown, we'd prefer not to drive too far if we go out for dinner, particularly with the inversion that had been hanging around in the valley.  We tried the Wasatch Broiler & Grill (Midvale location) recently to mixed success.

The restaurant, located near the Century Theatres (free covered parking), is in a fairly new space, decorated in warm, earthy tones with pretty fabrics and funky light fixtures.  There is something for everyone on the menu - healthy grilled chicken and veggies, kabobs, pasta, pizzas, burgers, salads - and nothing is over $18.00, with most of the entrees in the $10-$12 range.  They've got a full bar, with quite a few beers available (in bottles only, for $5/bottle which seems pricey for a bottle of beer) and at least four house wines (both red and white) at $5/glass.  I had the house pinot grigio (good), H had Full Suspension.

The food was okay but nothing special.  I had a house salad and a burger with Swiss, mushrooms and onions (except it wasn't Swiss), which I ordered medium but was subsequently informed that they were required to cook the burgers all the way through - I thought that was odd.  H had a salad and a BBQ chicken sandwich that was tasty enough but not piping hot.  Our sandwiches came with good fries - classic, sweet potato or a combination of both - and the fry portions were HUGE; way too big really as I couldn't come close to finishing mine.  Our server was certainly friendly enough but seemed new as we had to ask a couple of times for water and silverware.  She was careful to write down our order and repeated it back to us, however, which I much prefer to getting it wrong.

We were hopeful going in to dinner that we'd found a good new place for us, a locally owned restaurant with reasonable, fresh food.  While the experience was not bad at the Wasatch Broiler & Grill, the search is still on.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

three in a row

Monday at Alta turned out to be very much like Saturday and Sunday - a little warmer, a little less crowded,  quite a few more tele-skiers, same snow conditions.  We even skied on the same schedule, riding the Sugarloaf chair the morning and Supreme in the afternoon.

Sunshiny in Catherine's Area

Towards the end of our day, we ventured into the trees under the Castle Apron.  The snow was pretty good in there, tracked out, of course, but staying fairly soft.  Between the late runs in Catherine's and the runs in there, I was finally feeling like I could ski again, more comfortable maneuvering in the bumps and ruts.  Of course, I did find myself perched atop a big ol' cliff at one point, with H staring up at me from down below and wondering how I managed to get there.  Some careful backtracking and some quick turns in some trees later and I was safely down.

Arrow points to me, up on the cliff

We've got some weather moved in now - a rare freezing rain that really messed up Thursday morning's commute - and some snow to come.  We're hoping that it'll clear out the inversion and drop some much needed inches in the mountains.  The holiday weekend was fun and all, but we're really ready for some snow.

Much as I love that sky, I'd trade it 
for a snowstorm in a minute

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

soaking it in

Sunday was more of the same: yucky inversion in the valley, no new snow, lots of sunshine up in the mountains, passable ski conditions (considering) ... but surprisingly with a lot more people.  We pretty much carbon-copied what we'd done the day before - skiing at Sugarloaf in the sunshine in the morning, then moving to Supreme for the afternoon - but we rode the singles line a lot more.  Lots of folks were there for the long weekend and while everyone wished for more snow, no one seemed to be complaining much.  How could you, really, when the day looks like this:

Basking in the sun in East Greeley

Sunday, January 20, 2013

catching some beneficial rays

The inversion has set in again - and looks to be here for a while - so we headed up to Alta to escape the icky grey weather in the valley and see the sun for a change, even though we haven't had any new snow.  The weekend's weather was forecast to be in the high 30s and clear skies, meaning that we layered down a bit from the last few ski trips; indeed, while it was 5 F at our house Saturday morning, the temperatures crept up as we got higher, the air clearing until it was 10 F at Alta's base at 9:00 a.m.

Looking for soft(-ish) turns 
on East Greeley

We had expected to find crowds up there due to the inversion and the long weekend but there was hardly anyone there (good for us, bad for the ski resort).  The sun was up in the big blue sky, working its way over the mountains.  We tried a couple of runs off the Supreme chair first, as we always do, but that chair ride is still in the morning shadows this time of year, so we went back to Sugarloaf for the rest of the morning.  We skied East Greeley, which was pretty good, all things considered, warming in the morning sun, and did some bumps runs on Extrovert under the chairlift.

View of Supreme from the Backside

After lunch we went back to Supreme, finding no lift lines and softer snow.  Catherine's Area was pretty good although the traverse along the Supreme Bowl is in rough shape.  We stayed out until about 2:30 p.m., then headed home, reluctantly returning to the cold (20 degrees colder than up the canyon!), dark valley.  It was wonderful to play in the bright sunshine: if I can't have snowstorms, I want to have bluebird skies.

Helluva a blue sky

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

no go

After no snow since December 28, we finally got ourselves a storm from Thursday through Saturday morning, clearing out the inversion and bringing some of the white stuff.  Unfortunately, it was an "upside-down storm," meaning that the Cottonwood Canyons only got about a foot of new snow while the Salt Lake valley, benches and up north received 18-26 inches.  Not fair (unless you're a Snowbasin skier, in which case you were PSYCHED)!  The system also brought in some wickedly cold temperatures, thereby ensuring that we did not go skiing, as much as we were jonesing for it:  Alta's ambient temperatures averaged -5 F on Saturday and -15 F on Sunday, with the wind chill in the -25 F range.  I just can't handle those temperatures - my fingers and toes get cold so quickly and it's just no fun going in for a half hour after each run to warm up.  You Eastern skiers will call us spoiled Western wimps but I don't care.  I'm just glad to have avoided frostbite in all my extremities.

Friday, January 11, 2013

double italian

Tuesday was my birthday and to celebrate I was taken out for both lunch and dinner - which is rather more eating out in one day than I am accustomed to doing.  For lunch, I went with some co-workers to the Cinegrill in downtown SLC.  The Cinegrill is a venerable institution, established in the early 1950s, and has very loyal and longtime regulars.  It's old-school, red sauce Italian, decent but not fabulous food.  They're known for their liberal hand with the garlic, particularly the house salad dressing which is tasty but extra potent.  I was in the mood for soup and had the minestrone, which is quite good and chock-full of veggies; my dining companions had the sausage sandwich (made with sausage patties, not links) and lasagna (free-form, made to order) respectively.  With the red booths filled with cronies and the traditional food, stepping into the Cinegrill is like stepping back in time.

For dinner H and I went to the Cottonwood location of Cafe Trio, stopping in at the adjoining but separately owned martini bar for a drink first.  The cocktails are expensive - $7.50 - $9.00 for martini variations - but they do have about five beers on tap too.  The bar also serves the full menu from the neighboring restaurant with no mark-up: if you're comfortable where you're sitting, there's no need to get up for dinner.  We did go into the restaurant, however, which was surprisingly busy for a dark and cold Tuesday night, sitting at a little booth and waited on by a pleasant server.  We each had a green salad with mixed greens, blue cheese, grapes and candied walnuts, then for dinner I had the pasta special (kale-stuffed raviolis served with a kale pesto and brown butter sauce) and H had the sausage rigatoni.  We split a bottle of wine (don't remember what we had - the wine list is not particularly expansive) and even splurged on dessert: an enormous creme brulee for me, which was really too big, and a "chocolate budino" for H, which was sort of an Italian pudding-cake.  Our dinner was fine but we've decided that we don't LOVE Trio.  The food is good but not great and it seems a little expensive for what you get; the space, which is in a brand new building, seems a little sterile despite the colorful abstract art on the walls.  I think next time we have a special occasion type dinner we'll give someplace else a try - there certainly plenty of options in the SL valley.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Sunday brought about more of the same, only less: no new snow, no crowds, no sunshine, flat light and frozen bumps.  We went up to Alta in the morning and split up since H was on his tele skis again.  He tracked me down at the Supreme chair after about an hour and a half and we decided that we just weren't having that much fun.  It was colder because it was cloudy; we couldn't see what we were skiing on due to the flat light.  So we made our way back to the Wildcat base, loaded our gear in the truck and went back home, where we surprised the sleeping dog who clearly wasn't expecting us back so soon.  There is a storm coming, however, that's promising to drop over a foot in the mountains - hopefully we'll have some powder to play in for next time.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


We've been in the grips of a nasty inversion for about a week now, since the last storm we had was on 12/28.  We were eager to get out of the valley, even with no new snow, since Alta was going to be blue skies and sunshine on Saturday.  H took his telemark gear, which meant that we split up for skiing so he could practice his tele turns on Sugarloaf's groomers; I took this solo opportunity to work on my own technique since I'd had such a bad time my last time out.

Really no more freshies left

I don't know if it was the gorgeous weather or what, but I had a really good day, taking my time, skiing slowly (to which H said, "How could you possibly ski more slowly?" to which I replied, "I took my time figuring out where exactly I wanted to go, as opposed to trying to keep up with you.").  Under the sun the temperatures warmed to into the 30s, which softened the snow somewhat.  I practiced skiing bumps on Upper Sleepy Hollow and in the Erosion Gullies off the Supreme chair and went into Catherine's via the traverse and also hiking up and in - where I pretty much had the place to myself.  I went around the EBT and skied the backside, where the lower part of East Greeley had nice (not too big), soft(-ish) bumps.

We met up for lunch at Alf's where the nonexistent crowds meant that we (1) didn't have to fight for a table and (2) didn't have to hurry through lunch to give it up to a waiting family.  After lunch, we went out separately again.  Ski patrol had opened East Castle at this point - a very rare occurence! - and people were streaming in there, hiking way, way up and cruising down the untouched snow on its face.  I didn't hike in there but I did venture into the Evergreen area underneath, where the gates had been opened for the first time all year.  The snow there in the trees was stiff but fairly soft and I think I managed to score some first tracks in a spot or two.

You can do worse than blue skies and groomers

I rejoined H at 2:30 p.m. at the base of the Sugarloaf lift.  The groomers had gotten skied off at this point and he was getting a little bored of the same trails over and over.  I'd seen him from the lift once, however, and I think he's getting better at it.  Another lesson would probably help refine his technique and give him some more confidence.  I like to think my Saturday of solo skiing helped me too.  Now we just need some snow to see if it took.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

snow days

Lucky dog H has been on vacation since Christmas Eve, so he's gotten quite a few more ski days in than I have, even with taking a few off for Utah ski-snobbery (i.e., not going due to overcast, extra cold and no new snow conditions).  Here, in broad strokes, are his days on the hill - and by "hill" I mean Alta, of course:

Christmas Eve storm skiing

Christmas Eve - He had a great day on Christmas Eve as it snowed all day, filling in his tracks from run to run.  It wasn't particularly crowded either, plus he saw an ermine on the Sugarloaf chair.  H was on the chair, not the ermine; the ermine was scampering underneath it.

Starting to pile up on Christmas Eve

Thursday, 12/27 - After deciding to skip Boxing Day due to the windy conditions, he headed back up on the day after the day after Christmas, where once again it was snowing like gangbusters.  Being the vacation week and all, it was pretty busy but he stuck to Supreme Bowl and Catherine's Area, riding the singles line at the Supreme chair, and had another fantastic day.

More storm skiing

Friday, 12/28 - The storm petered out on Friday, swirling a few more flurries around in the morning and then clearing up to spectacular blue skies after lunch.  There was some great snow to play in - a little heavier than earlier in the week, but still deep and soft, especially over in Catherine's where most of the vacationing hoi polloi fear to tread - and the day turned out beautiful.  The lodges were quite busy at lunch, however, which would be a harbinger for our Saturday to come.

Top of Supreme after the storm moved out

New Year's Eve - Despite no new snow since the last storm moved out Friday morning, H took his telemark skis up for some turns on New Year's Eve.  He was on the fence for a while, given the no new snow thing, but ended up going up the canyon around 10 a.m. - and still managed to get a parking spot in the front row (although Alf's was pretty packed around lunchtime).  In-and-out clouds and cold temperatures (20s in the valley and only 4 F mid-mountain) and groomers to close out 2012.

Riding Supreme chair NYE